Yesterday I finally finished writing 84 cards to all the children in four classes at one of the schools where I work. I’m expanding my mailbox program this year to give it a try. I got one fourth-grade, two third-grade, and one first-grade classes to do it with me! (For those who aren’t familiar with the US school system, that’s roughly age 9-10, 8-9, and 6-7 in those classes.)
I am going to talk on other days about what I wrote specifically for each age, but I thought I’d talk a little bit about the program itself today.
My reasoning is that often, kids are only seeing handwriting as being modeled for them academically. What I mean is that kids at age 2, 3, 4, onward, inherently want to copy and pretend what they see adults doing. They pretend to drive a car, to go to the store or to work, to make themselves coffee or cook food, whatever they see us doing. But often, kids don’t actually see people writing meaningfully. If parents use handwriting in their life for joy or self-expression, it’s often private and done at a time when they’re not caretaking—journaling, drawing, writing, etc. And parents might not use handwriting in their life at all, whether for joy or for practical purposes like writing a grocery list or keeping a calendar, since these things might be digital.
What I wanted to do with this project was create a reason for writing to be authentic and delightful and completely optional and also adult-modeled. I handwrote all 84 notes (yes it was maybe too many, hello, welcome to me, I dive into things headfirst when I have new ideas 😅) and I made sure the teachers who are participating know 100% and are on board with the fact that this is a completely and totally optional activity for their kids that I want to be available in the room but NEVER forced.
My goal is to deliver a handwritten piece of mail to all of the students (whether they’re replying or not) at least once a quarter, and then to pick up any return mail every week or two and reply to any return mail as often as it exists.
I made actual mailboxes by covering shoeboxes with wallpaper, and then I stocked them with gel pens that have different types of pencil grips on them, stickers, and some small pieces of paper. The pencil grips are there for the kids to try out without feeling singled out and if anybody expresses liking one or writing better with one then I have more I can hand out to the teachers for them to use regularly. The stickers are there for fine motor pinching and also for delight. Mostly delight. 😉
I had mailboxes last year with just a handful of kids — like 4 kids total — all of whom already had OT services. This isn’t that; this is all the kids in the whole class, because more and more I’m seeing that almost everybody has a bit of a disconnect between how writing can be joyful and what writing actually is for them. I’m hoping this can be a tiny step to change that.